Sunday, 26 February 2012

Lenten Reflections: What I'm building on

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the ROCK. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundations on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and do not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Matthew 7: 24-27

This post is based on a sermon I heard in church a few weeks ago. God bless my pastor : ) Another very popular message. I've heard it in Sunday School and I've taught it in Sunday School too. What I found very interesting was that the only thing different in this story is the foundation the house was built on. Not the houses themselves and not the rain that came down, the streams that rose, the winds that blew and beat against the house. The only difference was the foundation the house was built on.

I have no building experience but most of us know that the foundation is not seen. You can spend a lot of money on the foundation and to others your site is just an empty plot of land. But how important the foundation is, even more important I daresay than how beautiful the structure of the house is or even the finishing. It might be a mansion but without a good foundation, it is a good for nothing mansion.

We will all face storms in life. Regardless of ethnicity, political affiliations and even religion. What guarantees our standing through the storm is enduring the necessary pain of building on the right foundation. Building our characters and not just our charisma. Building on sand is easy compared to building on a rock. Lashing out in anger at your child is easier than composing yourself and speaking a gentle word. Submitting a C grade assignment is easier than working on an A+ one. Saying yes to an extramarital affair is easier than working on your marriage, after all it is your spouse's fault for not giving you everything you need to be happy.

The easy route is not always the best. During Lent let us consider our ways and be wise.

I am building on the rock so I can stand through the storm.


Friday, 24 February 2012

Lenten reflections: Rocks as pillows

When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.....When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it."

Genesis 28:10, 16

There is a joke in my house that when I sleep deeply, I will sleep through the bed being stolen from under! However, I'm sure even I couldn't sleep with a rock for a pillow. Picture a weary Jacob, running from his brother's vengeance. He has done wrong, but so has Esau because he had given up his birthright! He is running from the familiar to the unfamiliar. From the comfort of his father's house to the hope of acceptance in his uncle's. Midway, he is tired, so tired that he can use a rock for a pillow and fall asleep.

Life can be hard. Disappointments abound. Rejection common. We run towards what we think is a solution and discover the cruel joke of a mirage. We use rocks for our pillows. As we take time to experience more of God during Lent, I want to encourage you as I am encouraging myself. That even when life is hard, God has not forgotten about us. With rocks as pillows, we can still dream dreams and see visions. We may be going to Laban's house with nothing and yet return back home with great wealth. Our present struggle isn't the end of our story. In the words of Chimamanda Adichie 'the danger of a single story isn't that it isn't true but that it is incomplete.' The Author and Finisher knows our stories. He is where we are, whether we are aware of it or not. Seasons do change and I trust and believe that a good change is around the corner for us.

I am learning to trust that just like Jacob, even though I am not in a place where I want to be at this present time, God will bring me back to Bethel with a testimony. 

Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Lenten reflections: Fixated on the future

'Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: FORGETTING what is behind and STRAINING toward what is ahead.'

Philippians 3:13

I got a powerful 'Inspiration in your Inbox' recently that reminded me of the verse above. It reminded me how important sharing can be. We sometimes literally have the power to change someone's day. Share something beautiful today. 

Its a very popular verse. We all have it memorised, immortalised in our journals, on plaques, on Tshirts and mugs but how many of us are really doing this? I must raise my hand and admit my guilt. I so often find myself trapped in the past, unable to guard my heart with all diligence against the onslaught of past mistakes, past hurts and even past victories. Sometimes the good old days can be an obstacle to the great present days and awesome future days.

When I am down or when things are not working, I find myself drifting into the past. Thinking about who hurt me, how unfair X and Y were to me. Thinking about who I hurt, asking myself if God is punishing me for something I may have done. Even after asking forgiveness, my heart keeps asking God to forgive even things I don't know I have sounds so silly writing it down!

I realised as I read that email that there were some things I just had to let go of and move on. I believe God spoke to my heart and told me that the way to let go of the past is to be fixated on the future. Seeing where you can be. The beauty the future holds and beginning to work towards it. Paul used the verb 'straining' towards what is ahead. Strain means pressure, when you strain, it is not something that comes to you naturally. 

Letting go and looking ahead is more than reciting the Bible verse. It takes work and yes I find myself slipping sometimes. But I have made a commitment to wipe the slate clean with some people and over some issues. I had some really nice tweets on this issue last week but it also included throwing some stuff out. What's the point of holding on to a picture, a card, a whatever it is that has the power to take you back 10 years, 3 years, 1 month and put you in a sad place. That belongs in the bin. Whatever it takes, let's get fixated on our future.

Letting it go and moving on


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

'Come, let us rebuild' Nehemiah's voice

"....The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and it gates have burned with fire" When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days, I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 

Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."

Selected verses from Nehemiah 1 and 2

Beautiful Jerusalem, capital city of the Kingdom of Israel. At its highest point in Solomon's time it housed both the temple and the palace. Even the queen of Sheba was amazed when she saw the magnificence that was Jerusalem. But Jerusalem was eventually conquered, her sons and daughters taken into exile. Now, the people are 'free' but what they saw when they returned home made them weep.

It is one thing never to have experienced good times, one can adapt. The one who was born blind does not see black or darkness, he sees nothing. The one who was not born blind curses the blackness, the nothing. He remembers the brilliance of the rainbow, blue clouds, green grass,  the redness of the earth. So it was with Nehemiah when he heard news from Jerusalem. From magnificence and opulence to broken walls and burnt gates.

Some of us can relate to this situation. There was a time that just the mention of his name brought a smile to your face but now something has broken. The business you've worked so hard to build seems to be in ruins. Broken relationships, broken dreams, ashes of what once was. We sit and weep for we remember how things once were. The past is not always painful, sometimes its beauty makes the present struggles that much hard to endure.  Jerusalem was once a beautiful place to live, work and play. Nigeria too (hmm).  

There is nothing wrong with crying but our response must never end there. Nehemiah mourned, fasted and prayed before the God of heaven and then he took action. Nehemiah is a 'type' for a godly leader. Not someone who professes to be a good leader, for a good leader does not need to say he is one. His works and posterity judge him for good or evil. Nehemiah's 'voice' was to rebuild the wall of Jeremiah. Walls are very important, even more so in Bible times. Walls speak of security and protection. To keep out what needs to stay out. 

It takes courage to rebuild anything. Sometimes its just easier to start from scratch.  But sometimes we don't have that option. To re-build means doing something again, there was a building, there was a business, there was a career, there was a marriage, there are children, but we need to re-build again. Go with God, find your voice. We will rebuild our lives, we will rebuild our nation. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt in record time because the people came together. Read the story a bit further, there was opposition at every turn (Sanballat and Tobiah) so there will be obstacles but we must develop a tenacity to rebuild our lives, against all odds.

Finding my voice, using it.